Coming Nov. 1 to Fox Reality: 'So You Think You Can Strike?'
We have nothing to do, the writers aren’t here. So a guy’s gonna come in and shave me. Fifty-five minutes, ladies and gentlemen! Fifty-five minutes to go!”
–David Letterman wings it during the last writers’ strike in 1988.
Unscripted reality TV, box-office bombs, endless reruns–dreck. There’s plenty of it on television now and there will be even more if the industry’s writers and producers cannot agree on a new contract by the end of the month. Because the writers’ unions–the Writers Guild of America, both West and East–have voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike should negotiators determine that a fair deal cannot be reached with producers.
At the top of their list of grievances: pay schedules for content distributed on the Internet and via other digital media. The guilds were screwed years ago when they agreed to a discounted pay schedule for DVDs, only to see that business blossom. And they’re determined not to make the same mistake. “The guild made a bad deal 20 years ago, and they’ve been angry ever since and they don’t want to do it again,” entertainment industry attorney Jonathan Handel told the Los Angeles Times. “That’s why we’re seeing a line drawn in the sand.”
Problem is, the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers doesn’t seem to be paying that line much mind. It claims there have been profound economic changes in the industry in recent years that make the terms and conditions of writing for digital platforms the guilds have proposed untenable. And hey, just because writers are paid residuals whenever their work is rebroadcast or sold on DVD doesn’t mean they should be paid residuals when their work is streamed over the Web–even if distribution costs are lower.
“[The guilds] continue to pursue numerous financial proposals that would result in astronomical increases in our costs,” said Nick Counter, president of the producers’ alliance. “Their proposals would also further restrict our ability to promote and market TV series and films and prohibit us from experimenting with programming and business models in new media. Instead of working toward solutions that would give the industry the flexibility it needs to meet today’s business challenges, [they continue] to hold onto demands that would impose unreasonable restrictions and unjustified costs.”